Brooklyn Nets' Chris Chiozza Has Orlando Opportunity

With Spencer Dinwiddie out, chance to resume a breakout moment for point guard

One of the disappointing aspects of the halt to the Brooklyn Nets’ season back in March was that we were just getting to know Chris Chiozza.

That final week was a sudden breakout for the sparkplug point guard, and a fresh opportunity could be awaiting in Orlando. Kyrie Irving remains out for the season after his shoulder procedure, and now Spencer Dinwiddie has been ruled out for the restart after his positive test for COVID-19.

That adds up to a major role for Chiozza when the Nets return to the court, maybe even a starting spot.

“I'm just going to go out there and play the same way I've been playing,” said Chiozza. “I feel comfortable playing with anyone on the court and I think I know everyone's game pretty well. I think it will be a little bit of an adjustment if I am playing with that first group, but it's something that I think I'll be pretty good in and make a quick transition with.”

Back in March, Chiozza came from nowhere to energize the Nets off the bench. Signed to a two-way deal in early January after being waived from his two-way contract with Washington in December, he saw limited minutes in five games over his first two months with Brooklyn. During that stretch, he played 10 games in the G League with Long Island, averaging 13.3 points, 5.6 assists, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.9 steals per game.

But with Brooklyn trailing the Celtics in Boston on March 3, Chiozza came off the bench in the third quarter and played a big role in the comeback from a 21-point deficit to an overtime win. Caris LeVert’s 51-point night was the biggest factor, but Chiozza pushed the pace, distributed sharp passes and knocked down a key late 3-pointer, finishing with eight points and four assists.

Wherever he fits in the rotation down at Disney, more minutes on the court alongside LeVert are likely.

“Caris is a great player. He plays the right way,” said Chiozza. “It makes it easy for me because he can score, he can catch-and-shoot, he can create his own shot, so I’ve really just got to get him the ball when he wants it. It’s pretty easy. I love playing with him.”

Chiozza stuck in the rotation right through the suspension of the season a week later, scoring 14 points against Memphis, 13 against San Antonio, and 11 points with five assists in the win against the Lakers that turned out to be Brooklyn’s last game before the stoppage.

"I really started to trust his ability to run that second unit,” said head coach Jacque Vaughn. “The biggest impact was his ability to push the pace and get that group to run, if you think back to the Laker game and his ability just to probe and get into the paint and make the defense react. So he's a guy that we'll definitely have to lean on to get us easy looks, and let's see if he can have a little bit more pressure on him to produce with more minutes."

When the NBA stopped, Chiozza returned home to Memphis. He passed the time with some Call of Duty and Fortnite, while his father ran him through basketball drills at a private gym. For Chiozza, it brought him back to his high school days.

“It’s tough to tell because you’re not actually playing real games right now, just working out,” said Chiozza of conditioning. “I feel like I’m in pretty good shape. To be this long of a layoff I feel like I’m probably in the best shape you could be in without actually being able to play.”

With the NBA expanding rosters to make two-way players eligible for the playoffs during the Orlando restart, the runway is clear for Chiozza over the next two months with no limitations. Undrafted out of Florida after four seasons in 2018, the 5-foot-11 guard has been with three organizations in two pro seasons, playing more games in the G League than the NBA.

He said he would love to be back in Brooklyn next season, but the resumption of play offers an opportunity to prove he belongs in the NBA.

“I think it’s vital for someone that was in my position, especially being a young guy trying to find their way into the league,” said Chiozza of playing in the NBA restart. “I think this is important for me and it’s a chance for me to continue to prove myself. Being a free agent coming up, hopefully prove myself enough to stay here or see what happens in the off-season.”

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